COVID-19 in Perry County

New records frustrate health officials

County first in 7-day cases per capita in state, second overall

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As COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, Missouri continues to be among the worst hit, as cases —and deaths — across the state continue to rise. Cases in Perry County continue to rise right along with them. According to recent data released by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Perry County is No. 2 in the state for positive cases per capita with 5,790 cases per 100,000 residents, trailing only Sullivan County (7,341) and No. 1 in cases per capita for the past seven days with 1,034.7. “This is affecting so many people at this point and the simplest of precautions can be taken to help combat this,” said Perry County Health Department director Sylvia Forester. “I know that a lot of people say the math doesn’t work and they like to compare us to [Cape Girardeau County] where they have a mask mandate in place. Cape County is No. 23 and No. 26, respectively, where we’re No. 2 and No. 1.” On Monday, the health department reported 82 new lab-confirmed cases and six new probable cases since Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,253 since March. Of those, 1,019 have recovered from the virus and two have been classified as re-infected. Nine people have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus. As of Monday, there were 225 active cases in the county, a new record. “This increase is creating a hardship for many of our citizens, businesses, organizations, healthcare facilities, and schools,” Forester said. “We need everyone to help protect our families, friends and neighbors by remaining vigilant in your efforts to stop the spread.” On Nov. 4, Perry County set a record for largest number of cases in a single day with 45. That record — which coincided with the largest number of active cases since the pandemic began at 132 — lasted a day. On Thursday, the health department, which typically posts its reports on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, posted a special update on its Facebook page. “Today, we broke yesterday’s record with 56 new COVID-19 cases,” the post read. “Hundreds of close contacts have been identified this week as well. We are urging Perry County citizens, businesses, and organizations to take action to stop the spread of COVID-19.” Across the state, the number of COVID-19 cases has swollen to more than 220,760 and more than 3,320 people have died. According to data compiled by the New York Times, Missouri ranks 15th in the country in total cases.

Nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 10,290,370 cases reported, putting the U.S. more than two million cases ahead of India, the country second on the list. of the 1.275 million deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, more than 240,000 have been Americans. Locally, the continuing increase in new cases continue to strain the small staff at the health department, which conducts contact tracing on each new case as well as checking in with those positives during their period of quarantine. “The Perry County Health Department continues to work overtime to ensure timely response and contact tracing,” Forester said. “If you are positive, we ask that you be honest with our staff so that we can effectively contact trace in an effort to stop the continued spread of the disease.” Forester told the Republic-Monitor on Tuesday that she and her staff feel frustrated as they watch the numbers rise. “Our one day total record beat out even Jackson County, Ill.,” Forester said. “That’s the Carbondale and Murphysboro area. It’s literally, like, we can’t win. Our messaging has been very consistent through this entire process. Wear masks, social distance, wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, even if you think it’s just allergies or a cold. It’s all of the same things, it’s just that people have to take it upon themselves to implement it.” Forester said things get worse when you look at the positivity rate in the county. “Our positivity rate is even more terrifying,” Forester said, explaining that the rate reflects the number of positive results versus the number of tests administered. “The positivity rate for Perry County over the last seven days is 80 percent, but our testing is not very high. And that’s another thing. People say, ‘Oh, well, we’re getting more cases because we’re testing more.’ We’re 27th in the state for testing over the last seven days, but first in the state for new cases in the last seven days.” Part of the problem, she said, can be directly traced to informal social gatherings where people don’t often take necessary precautions, leading to close contact spread. “Our local leaders need to lead by example and do the right thing and we really need organizations and businesses to be leading by example,” Forester said. Until that happens, she said, Perry County will continue to be among the hardest hit in the state, which is one of the hardest hit in the nation, which in turn is the hardest hit in the world. “At this point, if you’re not wearing a mask or you’re holding informal social gatherings where masks and social distancing aren’t in force, then you’re part of the problem, and we need people to be part of the solution,” Forester said.

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